Last Sunday’s Grammy Awards were chock full of amazing moments and performances, but one particularly resonated with me for purely nostalgic reasons: the Glen Campbell tribute.
The Band Perry did a nice cover of Gentle on My Mind, and man-of-the-hour Blake Shelton’s Southern Nights was delightful, but what really got me was when Glen himself came on stage to sing his 1975 chart topper Rhinestone Cowboy. The crowd at the Staples Center leapt to their feet to cheer Glen on, as did I in the comfort of my own home.
Here’s the what: Rhinestone Cowboy was the very first 45 I purchased as a child (with my own allowance money.)
It was the summer between 4th and 5th grade, and the song was ubiquitous on pop (and country) radio. In fact, it would wind up being the #2 song on Billboard’s Hot 100 for the year, second only to Love Will Keep Us Together by The Captain and Tennille. I stayed up late on New Year’s Eve listening to Casey Kasem’s year-end countdown on KBEQ 104.3, waiting to see if my first major purchase would make the top ten. #35? Mandy! #22? Lady Marmalade! #14? Kung Fu Fighting! #3? Philadelphia Freedom! And then right there in the penultimate spot, my beloved Rhinestone Cowboy! Picture, if you will, an eleven year old boy in Peter Brady-esque threads lying on the shag rug wearing giant Koss headphones so as to not disturb the rest of family, listening to the familiar opening lines, “I’ve been walkin’ these streets so long, singin’ the same old song, I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway…”
As the youngest of seven kids, I was exposed to all kinds of music very early on. For my 5th birthday, all I wanted was The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed, a concept album that included (now) classic rock hits Tuesday Afternoon and Nights in White Satin. My sister Robin gave it to me. I still have it, with my name written in crayon on the front to make sure that my siblings wouldn’t confuse it with anything in their album collections. Robin would later take me to my first concert at age 12 — also The Moody Blues — at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. I can still smell the funny smoke.
But I digress. I wore the grooves out on that Rhinestone Cowboy 45. And when you only own one record, you play side A so much that you ultimately turn to side B to give that a spin, as well. The flipside was a relatively forgettable song called Lovelight., but I know all the words to that little ditty, too.
One of my favorite gems from the People’s Choice Awards archive is this video of Glen Campbell lip-syncing Rhinestone Cowboy while atop a very uncooperative white horse. You owe it to yourself to check it out
But enough about me and Glen. What was your first single purchase? Was it a 45, a cassette single (or “cassingle”, as we used to call it back when frozen yogurt was known as “frogurt”), CD single or digital download? Do you still have it? Are you flooded with memories when you hear it again? I know I am. I’ll never forget my first.
POLL: What was the format of the first single you ever purchased with your own money?